The Help – the movie

When the movie is better than the book, I wonder if I missed something when I read or if the cinema version was that much changed.  David Denby in his New Yorker analysis, Maids of Honor, offered a clear comparison of the “The Help” in print and on the screen – with an explanation for why I liked the movie much more than the book.

Octavia Spencer as Minny

Stockett struggled with the language in the book, and was criticized for the “voices of the black women,” but Denby points out that Tate Taylor’s adaptation for film and the quality of the lead actresses infused Stockett’s words with authenticity in a way the book could not do:

“Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, both great actresses, have given Stockett’s words the shape, the rhythm, and the pitch of their own temperaments.  They sound right.”

The message is still the same, but the film goes further to reveal another truth.  The oppression and depression extended to the closed-minded white daughters of the South – Denby assures us that “they are victims too.”  Stockett offers Skeeter as the foil against her gossipy villains, but these women seem more pathetic than powerful when you see their lacquered hair, print dresses, and cold mindless expressions on the big screen.

On a continuum, I’d rate:

the book≈ good →→ the movie ≈ better →→→ Denby’s article ≈  best →→→↑

Have you read the book and/or seen the movie?  What do you think?

Read my review of book, “The Help” – here

4 thoughts on “The Help – the movie

  1. Read the book and saw the movie, liked both. I grew up in Texas in the 1950s-60s and the book, which rang true to me, brought back a lot of memories. I thought that the casting in the movie was superb – such strong actresses were the antedote to a tendency for over-sentimentalization in the movie narration. I particularly felt that the ending was Oprah-ized – if they were going to rewrite it, I would have liked a stronger, angrier voice.

    • Thanks for your comments. I hadn’t thought about the movie ending, but I do agree with you – something better than walking off into the sunset would have added to the character.

    • If you do read the book, I’d be interested to see how it stack up, since you’ve already seen the movie (and know about “the terrible awful”).

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